Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

“Wasn’t That a Party?”

Monday, November 12th, 2018

The Rovers got it wrong when they wrote a song about the party. It was certainly not the whiskey or the gin that is doing in the liberal party. It was the desperation for leadership. And Trudeau is a magic name to Canadian liberals. At a time when people are questioning the viability of political parties, they reached back into the party’s past.

But Justin Trudeau is not his father and he marches to a different drummer. He was playing the right tunes on his flute to impress the party’s urges for reform. He promised to restore the party’s right to selecting its candidates—and then, inconveniently, forgot.

And he thinks it should be a BYOB party. He got the party to give up the standard $10 memberships. He wanted lots more than that. He added people to the party lists for free, called them liberals and inundates the old and the new with e-mails for funds.

Justin Trudeau does not understand the functioning of a political party. What he failed to do was build the party in the electoral districts. He failed to understand the superior strength of the conservatives in the ground game. My district liberal association is meeting for the first time in two years later today and he expects them to mount a strong campaign next year?

But they have been left with nothing to do for the past two years. The national conventions have been for the party elite and its apparatchiks. The policy discussion has been cursory and carefully controlled. After conventions, policy is filed and forgotten, despite the right intentions. Nobody seems to be complaining about what Justin Trudeau is doing to their party. It is no longer the party it used to be.

We used to have regular meetings and events in the districts, in provincial regions and in the provinces. We used to meet to discuss policy, party structure and constitution. And we used to send experts out to the districts to inform them of the latest thinking on party communications and campaigning techniques. And more than 90 per cent of the work was done by volunteers.

As Pierre Trudeau found out in his second election campaign, the voters are fickle. In the general election of 1972, Pierre Trudeau won a slim majority of only two seats in the House of Commons. We shall see how Justin does next year.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Clement’s calamity?

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

It is so easy when you never liked someone to get a little lift from their downfall. It is always best to leave subjects such as this without comment, as the person is gone and will soon be forgotten.

But that used to be the supposition BBB (Before Brampton Brown). Some people are hard to lose. After watching Brown for years in Barrie, why would I be surprised when the wily little putz pulled a fast one in Brampton.

But Tony Clement might have been slipperier than Brown, if he had devoted his lifetime to political manipulation. And who would believe that he might get it off by sending pictures of his genitalia, in full regalia(?) to ladies who might not be from Australia?

I used to think of politician Tony Clement as Ontario’s gift to Stephen Harper. He had apprenticed the fine art of screwing the taxpayers under Ontario’s premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eaves.

He was the most famous though for his largess in building washrooms and other infrastructure in Huntsville in honour of the G8 in 2010. He spent $50 million of monies that had been earmarked for our border security in a town more than 300 kilometres from the U.S. border.

He did not find money as easy to come by when he tried for the federal conservative leadership after Harper resigned.  He quit the race and left behind the pitiful 13.

Stephen Harper had used Clement to turn the tables and block spending from 2011 to 2015. What was happening was that departments such as Veteran’s Affaires had been allocated funds to help veterans. When voters asked about this, conservative MPs just said that the money had been allocated and everything was fine. What they might not have clued in on was that, as president of the treasury board, Clement could stop the funds from being passed to the department.

One of the most reprehensible of Clement’s restraint of funds was the money allocated for training and supplying the RCMP with carbines to supplement their revolvers. The money came so slowly to the field that Mounted Police personnel were being killed because they did not have adequate fire power against longer range and automatic weapons. (It is only on television programs where pistols win such gun fights.)


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The redemption of Patrick Brown?

Monday, March 19th, 2018

How do you like those phone calls you get from automated polling systems? The worst of them are the ones that want you to press one if you intend to vote conservative and two if liberal. I always have lots of fun with them by pressing numbers at random.

But I had to pause and think about a series of those calls last week. After two calls on subsequent evenings, I thought it might be the local mayor testing the waters for his political future. I sent him an e-mail kidding him about the surveys and suggesting that his party needs him at Queen’s Park.

But when the third automated polling call came that evening, I had an even better idea. What if it is former conservative leader Patrick Brown checking out his options? He has been told that he is not getting a pass from the conservatives to run for them in my electoral district of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. The only path for redemption left for him would be the mayor’s chair in Barrie.

He could hardly come back as a councillor. That was where he started 14 years ago. He did not seem to like practicing law or whatever he was doing after finally passing bar admission. He only stayed a councillor until, on a second try, he finally won a federal seat for the conservatives.

The mayoralty could be the ideal route back. He can hardly disprove somehow that he prefers younger girls. From now on he should solemnly promise to check their driver’s licences before inviting any of them to his Shanty Bay home to admire his hockey memorabilia.

And he never has been mayor of Barrie. The job pays well. It is an easy job. You get your picture in the local media all the time. You get to cut a lot of ribbons and greet visiting dignitaries. It is not as though you are expected to really run things. The toughest part of the job is getting the ward councillors to maintain some decorum at open council meetings.

And it would free up the incumbent mayor to do something useful. Having a guy who graduated from the London School of Economics worrying about the high householder taxes in Barrie is a terrible waste of talent. The city staff will continue making all the decisions anyway. The mayor is just for show.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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The despotism of First-Past-the-Post?

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

One of our favourite political bloggers wrote a desperate ‘cri de Coeur’ the other day against what he perceives as the despotism of first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting. He lives on Canada’s Left Coast and writes under the pseudonym ‘The Mound of Sound.’ Rather than simply refuting his assertions, I think it is important to find the source of his anguish.

To begin, there is his suggestion that 40 per cent support in FPTP voting can make any leader a despot. (Even Donald Trump needed the undemocratic Electoral College system to win the U.S. presidency.) We Canadians had a special House committee on electoral reform brought forward by the Trudeau Liberals. It was made up from all parties and spent a summer listening to submissions and writing a report on alternatives to FPTP voting. You know their conclusion. No change was made.

FPTP is not evil. It has worked for the people for hundreds of years. And if you want a real headache, check out how the Roman Republic elected its tribunes. One of the reasons to appreciate FPTP is that it is one of the most difficult systems of voting to cheat.

Maybe it is the simplicity of FPTP that turns off some intellectuals. If it is that simple, it has got to be wrong?

If your objection to FPTP is based on the ability of someone to win with less than 50.1 per cent of the vote—then fight for run-off elections. That is still much simpler and more democratic than other suggestions. You should not be enticed by preferential voting—it is not the same.

But before you demand change in how we vote, do you not think we should widen our outlook? Should we not take a look at the basics of our democracy—our political parties? Is it right for the Sikh community in Canada to swamp the membership of the federal New Democrats on behalf of that party’s new leader? Was that misogynistic and corrupted campaign in Alberta the way to choose a new Conservative leader for Alberta? Was it right for Brown in Ontario to buy the memberships for tens of thousands of immigrants to be the choice of Ontario Conservatives?

And does it surprise you to learn that the federal Conservatives and Liberals are funded from the same purses? What makes you think either party is run in a democratic fashion?

Before we have a liberal democracy in Canada we need liberal democratic parties. We have much work to do.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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“Nice suits and empty slogans.”

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

That comment about suits and slogans was in the last line of the Toronto Star’s pompous editorial on “The challenge for Singh.” The newspaper editorialists want Singh and Trudeau to square off on progressive policy issues in the 2019 federal election. Lot’s of luck on that!

But the problem is that the Star writers think that Jagmeet Singh was selected by the New Democratic Party. That is a mistaken belief. The Ontario MPP was the choice of the Sikh community across Canada. Canada has been welcoming Sikhs to this country since the earliest government records were kept back in the 1800s. StatsCanada tells us there are more than 275,000 adherents to Sikhism in Canada today and the largest numbers are in British Columbia. For the Brampton MPP to sign up over 40,000 Sikhs in a few months was not a very difficult feat.

But why he would want to win the NDP leadership the same way as that putz Patrick Brown took over the Tory leadership in Ontario makes no sense.

As the new leader of the NDP, Singh’s first job is to make nice with the NDP caucus in Ottawa and then he has to get out to small town Canada and prove to Canadians that he and his party have a vision of this country that can be delivered by a guy in a turban.

And it also might be a good idea for Singh to stop dressing as though he is some sort of playboy. He should change from Harry Rosen bespoke suits to buying his clothes at Mark’s Work Warehouse. He needs to show that he is an NDPer, not a Liberal.

When he gets around to working out a program of NDP policies for the coming election, he can forget wrapping the packages in “love and courage.” Whatever theme his brain trust comes up with, it has got to have a lot more bite to it.

‘Chuckles’ Scheer and his Conservatives are all smiles these days because of the vision of Trudeau and Singh in the coming election beating each other up over the same ridings in the greater Toronto and Vancouver areas.

But I got the impression that the Star’s editorial writers might never have seen Jagmeet Singh MPP in inaction at the legislature in Toronto’s Queen’s Park. He is no Benjamin Disraeli.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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Minister Monsef ‘s measure.

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

How would you like to have a job based on proving your boss is right? It seems the same as Canada’s Fraser Institute that is always commissioning studies designed to prove the Institute’s right-wing theories. Now we have a cabinet minister trying to implement her leader’s campaign promise that Canadians will never again use first-past-the-post voting to elect a federal government. It was a rash promise and neophyte Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef might not measure up to the task of implementing it.

It is hardly her fault. Psephology (the study of elections and voting) is not a common topic at dinner tables in this country. Nor do civics classes delve deeply into the subject. And judging by what we read from published political science post-graduates, real expertise is rare.

But that does not preclude lots of opinions that people are quite willing to share. For all we know, Minister Monsef might be more knowledgeable than her leader. She might even be wondering how the government would explain a change in voting to Canadians.

While Prime Minister Trudeau leans towards preferential voting systems, Ms. Monsef has probably already figured out that that would be a really hard sell. Quite a number of amateur experts have already figured out that in the election just past, the Liberals would have even more seats if a form of preferential voting was in place. There were lots of Canadians who preferred the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens while the Conservative support was sliding. Best guess, the Liberals would have won about 30 more seats if being elected required a 50 per cent or more preference.

Conversely, a run-off vote in those electoral districts where nobody won a majority would likely have produced more victories for the Greens and NDP. It would be a clear indication that preferential voting is not the same as a run-off election. Since run-off elections can be much less costly when using Internet voting, that is something that needs to be considered.

And proportional voting is far more complex a question. There are many variables in proportional voting. And there are more things it does not do than it accomplishes. It does not ensure more women and minorities are selected. It does not often produce majority governments. It does not improve the transparency of government. And since proportional voting was designed for voters who are mostly illiterate, why would we need it in Canada?

Minister Monsef is an unusual choice to address such a complex question for the government. She might be very willing and adroit in the task but she is coming from a serious lack of experience in government. She is going to have to prove to be a very, very quick study.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Do Ontario Tories need a leader?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party will announce its new leader tomorrow. Will anyone care? Is it going to make a difference? With three years to go before an election in Ontario, will the voters notice the change? When you hear that timing is everything in politics, you get the idea that this is lousy timing.

And what possible difference in leadership potential is there between MPP Christine Elliott and MP Patrick Brown. Has either ever shown any? Has either one suggested in any concrete way how they would make life better in this province? Is either in demand as a speaker for Kiwanis or Rotary meetings? Has either ever held people spellbound by the brilliance of their argument? Both candidates have been in politics for nine years. They are both lawyers.

Christine Elliott’s claim to fame is that she was married to the late federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. She took over his old provincial electoral district in 2006 when he had moved to federal politics. She ran for the Ontario party leadership in 2009 and was defeated by Tim Hudak. Hudak appointed her deputy leader and then ignored her.

And if you think Christine Elliott is dull, you have never met MP Patrick Brown. There are three things in Patrick Brown’s life: they are political organization, hockey and marathon running. He is not very fast on ice or track and found he needed to make his money from politics. His only problem is that in politics, he is a drone. He does nothing, he contributes nothing and he is barely responsible enough to be on time for votes. He would rather be out running or playing pick-up shinny.

And if you think this guy is boring when reading other people’s speeches, try his cocktail conversation. Have you ever been to a cocktail party and been told afterwards that a person was there. And you do not remember them being there. Patrick Brown is not memorable in a crowd of three. He has no appeal, personality or possible reason to be chosen leader of the Ontario Tories.

You could flip a coin between these two for leader of their Ontario party and if you are really lucky, you will lose the coin.

There is no question that between the two, Christine Elliott is the more appealing person. She even has the blessing of Ontario Conservative icon Bill Davis. Mr. Brown has absolutely no redeeming qualities. It seems that most of Mr. Brown’s supporters have no knowledge of Ontario politics, probably did not pay their own membership and might not even be eligible yet to vote in an Ontario election.

Surely there is a better way to chose leaders.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Bearing bad news for NDP’s Tom Mulcair.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

George Lakoff is an American who thinks. The UCLA Berkeley professor was in Toronto last week. We missed a chance to meet him. He is reported to have told his audience there is no such thing as the political centre. That must have been bad news for the New Democrats who came to see him. Their federal Leader Tom Mulcair has been busy trying to find the political centre and in the process he has lost touch with the left. Lakoff could have told him that the centre is just a hypothetical point on a bell curve, drawn by statisticians.

In the same way, maybe Babel-on-the-Bay is just a hypothetical place. It stands on a lonely island where we are constantly besieged by the insufferable Whigs of Canada’s right-wing liberalism. Alone, we have to take on the harsh reality show known as Stephen Harper’s Conservatism while observing the wanderings in the wilderness of Tommy Douglas’ child-like socialists.

What do you have to do around here to get the system working for Canadians? Do we have to copy Preston Manning and start our own political party? Manning did that and his Reform Party turned around and ate the Conservative Party’s lunch. In response to that the Liberals and New Democrats should have merged into the Canadian Social Democratic Party. It was just neither party had the leadership, the will nor the smarts and Canadians have suffered ever since.

Maybe Lakoff would have known how to solve that. He might have sent the muddled moderates off to fornicate and produce offspring that could appreciate the necessity for more and more intrusive government and more taxes. Just not in our lifetime.

He thinks the basic difference between Democrats (progressives) and Republicans (Neanderthals) is that the Democrats went to college and the Republicans went to church. They are both mislead and confused.

Lakoff gives the right-wing full marks for marketing their product. He says they frame their proposition better because more of them must have gone to business schools. Moderates might understand philosophy but they seem to know squat about selling. Lakoff laughs at them for thinking reason will win.

What, regretfully, Lakoff cannot explain is the growing intransigence of the right and left of the United States of America. There is hatred in Washington that you can smell from the Beltway. Let us fervently hope this political vehemence does not spread into Canada.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The Candidate: Pre-writ canvassing.

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Part 3 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

These spring days are golden times for canvassing. No political candidate worth the name can ever waste a single day without seeking out the opportunity to knock on doors. You can be relaxed, chatty and, above all, listening. This is when you learn what people are thinking, what is going to influence their vote when the election is held and what they think their neighbours will do. They might be reluctant to tell you their thoughts but you will often find what they attribute to neighbours are their own thoughts.

What your team is looking for at this time is balanced sampling. The candidate has to be moved about the electoral district and given an opportunity to hear from all demographics. You have census information and Google Earth that will tell you even more about the demographics street by street, block by block and rural route by rural route. You also want to move the candidate around so that s/he gets to know and is comfortable with people in all parts of the riding.

Always send your candidate with a small team. During this period, you want to send at least one experienced canvasser and one or two newbies. Take advantage of the training time and make sure they enjoy the experience. You will need these people to be working much harder once the writ is issued.

And if you are wondering were all your canvassers are in this period, you are engaging them in training, special events, and team building.

This is also the time when you can find out who among your volunteers can run successful coffee parties, which canvassers should be asked to be team leaders and who should head up election day efforts.

And keep that literature at this time basic. No heavy policy effort is needed. You are introducing your candidate. Keep the candidate the emphasis.

Weekly e-mails to all supporters are critical to keeping the momentum going. Build participation in planning and arranging special events. The dog days of summer are when candidates should be on the barbeque circuit.

And a further tip: keep the talks to these small summer groups to discussing your concerns for the people in your riding and what you, as a Member of Parliament, can do to help. We certainly need more pro-active MPs.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The Candidate: “What do we do now?”

Monday, April 6th, 2015

That question is never answered in the movie: The Candidate. It is the final line of the film delivered by actor Robert Redford. The bad news for any serious political candidate is that winning your party’s nomination is when the hard work begins. For all of those eager candidates being chosen for the upcoming federal election, Babel-on-the-Bay is going to provide periodic candidate check lists to assist candidates to be the best candidate they can be. Other readers can also enjoy:

When you hit your stride as a candidate by admitting that you have never worked so hard in your life, you will be able to say you are a real candidate. Sure, there might be candidates in Alberta who can take it easy but there are many cautionary tales of candidates who lost because they thought they could coast to victory. No candidate has ever been sorry for working hard every day of the campaign.

And every candidate needs a personal calendar so that every day to the election can be crossed off. And when you cross off another day, you have to remember that there are no do-over days or grace periods.

This initial period of the campaign is classroom time for the candidate. You keep your mouth shut and your ears and eyes open. Your time has to be spent learning every street and rural route in the riding. You study census information until you are quoting riding demographic information in your sleep. You study previous elections and learn by the mistakes of previous candidates.

Of course we all know that you will only win on your leader’s coat-tails but you never, ever know when you will come across someone who only votes for the individual. Those are the votes you have to win.

One of the major tasks in this period is finding voter groupings. Where are the pools of voter support that can be accessed for campaign assistance and support? You can find them in churches, community centres, temples, libraries, legions, hockey arenas and the local bocce association. And never forget the local religious groupings. Never interrupt services but there is nothing wrong with getting to know all the local pastors, priests, rabbis and imans. And never forget that when elected you represent all these groups.

Next chapter in this series, we will look at early communications needs.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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